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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"


higher teachers, especially the rhetoricians in the great schools of
Greece and Alexandria, to be a serious blow to these liberal
studies and the pagan culture which inspired them. It indicated
the coming of a new order of things in the State, fatal to the
Hellenism in which they lived and had their being.

If the reactionary movement provoked by Constantine's change
of view had depended wholly on the efforts of the teachers of
grammar and rhetoric, it would probably have come to an early
end. Powerful as was the influence of the schools with their long-
standing traditions, there was not sufficient sincerity and truth in
the religious forces behind them to withstand the encroachments
of a faith which had won the adherence of great masses of the
people and had now few opponents other than men of letters and
persons of senatorial rank. But during the previous century, the
old mythology underlying the existing culture and religion had
received an infusion of new life and vigour from the neo-Platonic
cult, which strengthened its hold on conservative minds. While
the older philosophies had lost touch with the spirit of the times
and had almost died out even in Athens, there grew up in Alex-
andria, at the time when Clement and Origen were giving
Christianity a cultural form suitable for educated men, this new
eclectic philosophy which combined the teaching of Plato and
Aristotle with Oriental mysticism and appealed to faith as much
as to reason. As presented by Plotimis, its first and greatest
exponent, the contemporary and fellow-student of Origen, it was
not explicitly hostile to Christianity, But Porphyry, the disciple
of Plotinus, who brought it to Rome about 260, gave it an anti-
Christian direction; and so did lamblichus, his disciple, by
whom it was introduced into Syria a generation later. As it spread
through the Greek world in the Fourth Century, the dogmatic and
mystical elements in it became more pronounced, and it became
the faith of most of the more intelligent opponents of Christianity.
Finding in it at once the vindication of the fundamental tenets of
the old religions and a satisfaction of their own religious needs,
they made it the rallying-ground of the forces opposed to the hated

For a brief season it seemed as if circumstances might favour
the alliance of literature with the religious philosophy of Alexan-
dria, and bring about the restoration of the old-world gods and
goddesses. In 361, Julian, surnamed the Apostate, came to the